Poetry Blog by John E Marks

Al-Andalus

"Spain, under Arab rule, became the most civilized country in the world."

 Max Dimont,The Amazing Adventures of the Jewish People, Behrman House, 1995, p. 81

Arabic spoken in Andalusia,

after 400 years of the inquisition.

Muslim houses, in Bosnian villages,

with crosses on display

despite the threat of apostasy.

..........And slay them wherever you come upon them: Surah-Al...

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A home I never had

Serendipity came my way, on a blowy Lancaster day

Blown in all the way from Cal-i-forni-i-a, an idea of a girl

That I kept in my head, long after she was dead 

Except in great extremity when I'd gamble all that I had

On her not being sad. But, maybe, I was wrong and Jenny

Had sung a bitter-bitter-song. A song of her declining days

Drifting into a frustration-opoid-filled Palo Alt...

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VORTEX

Morning maniac music

Shakes me awake

The regular guys

Those who once brought hope

Now bring hate.

 

Over the mountain,

the clouds scud away

blood on the floor

it's all fading away.

........

Blood on the soul,

and blood over water

All those refugees 

we oughter.....

stick 'em in the camps

and camp'em on the shelf

of our conscience

.......

Wa...

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Dark Star

Falling in love

Beats falling in line

What is our derivative today

A bluesy-chime?

.......

In this curve of time

We need a degree of differentiation

To establish our rate of change

With respect to time.

......

There are a number of ways

To fix this derivative:

In the end they all amount to the same

Number: 

..........

In the fourth dimension

The grad...

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Moon, moon

 

Moon came to an old Cheshire mere,
In all her shadowy finery.
This boy cannot stop looking
And looking and looking at pretty Missy Moon.
Thunder growls on this high summer eve,
Missy Moon shows off her talents,
Her rounded suppleness of form
Shows us all her shades and shadows and crevices.
Toing-and-froing the moon swings like an old nursery rhyme
Moonlight flows and flows and t...

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The beautiful Cathars of Languedoc

 

 

 

The ideas of the beautiful Cathars of Languedoc spread across western Europe

Cathar comes from the Greek: καθαροί, katharoi, “the pure [ones]”

They built on the dualistic theology of Manichaenism

Which they blended with the eastern Christianity of Byzantium

They were ascetic: believing the matetial world was the evil realm of Satan

Whilst the world of the spirit w...

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The Last Judgement

 

At the end of time I will rise

Like today, go about my business

Talk to children, smile sometimes.

 

The sky - the real sky - shall shelter

And storm the earth still. Black soil shall

Breed many Satans still.

Azure clouds from which no rain falls

Shall mass on far horizons.

 

Large drops of rain shall fall, freezing into ice,

Falling into full sunshine.

An...

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THE SNOT-GREEN (WINE-DARK) SEA

 

The winter-sharp brains of children 
Took a turn for the worse,
Suffered an inferiority complex

Caused by all the old men: quick to criticise, slow to help.. 

Dispersed, triumphant solely in their dreams.
Children running across raging seas danced on the waves. 

Such a storm-blessed salty awakening.
They had nothing to regret. 
They were children who coped with HIV, nursed t...

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HOLY BROKENNESS

 

Photo by Tom Butler on Unsplash

 

Missing the wildness of the beautiful

We degenerate into words. Waiting, between

Sentences, for the Muse to catch up with us,

We fulminate, flash like lightning, explode so

Violently that I catch myself thinking this

Is an all an act to compensate for the time

My friend climbed that tree before disappearing

To Japan for all eter...

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i.m. Paul Leon

"`He was courteous but very silent. He was good with children. His eyesight may have been impaired, but he had an ear open to the world." This is how Alex Leon recalls James Joyce, who, between 1928 and 1939 was an almost daily visitor to his family's flat on the rue Casimir-Perier in Paris. Joyce came to consult with Alex's father, Paul Leon..." 'The Irish Times', Thu, Oct 29, 1998

 

A ...

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Rhapsody

 

Photo by Wayne Chan on Unsplash

(for Cathy)

If all the days of all the years were made of wine and gold
They’d be present in the light of intelligence in this one dog’s eyes.
This friendship across species — a Buddhist mantra –
Rocks me like a good old boy, befriends me like the rain.
He’ll be with me when the gates fly open — his love will never end.
Seek out the depths, the s...

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The season of the witch

)

moments of the past

fall flat

memories do not last:

kicking leaves

in stormy-autumn 

tumbling heaps, red, gold and brown

deep-set colours all around

echoing the silent dread

of  the day of the dead.

A memory-lost, a memory-found,

storm-tossed words,

all around,

thought 

but never said:

regrets of a life misled.

Dust-motes float

around my head,

...

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Echoes of history

Passing these whiter shades of pale, these pretty traces of lace,

We reveal the opal-luminosity of these few remaining late Romans,

Their indigo-dreams red with the gore of resistance on this bloody

May Day, negating their absorption into the timeless air of antiquity,

Through the thousand year creation of Constantinople’s drift and swell,

Rising into Elysium’s perfumed garden ...

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An old-fashioned sonority

 

My friend is dead.

I met him here

He was wise,

But he was not clear

About anything - afar or near.

For which I was grateful.

I try to hold him clear in mind -

on the random wildwind strain

where we hear old notes playing -

I maintain the glory of his voice, his name,

But I have a sick dread of a fading

Time, unmaintained by love or rhyme.

 

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At the wedding of the dead

I went to see a dead man's wedding today.

I can sing again, some may say,

Even if the bridegroom cuts out his heart

And swears they'd never part

I'll plant a heart in the national park

But the NIMBYs would exclaim,

In addition flowers cannot bloom,

For the NIMBYs are in their 60s with no debts,

They think they'll live for ever

But between the layers of birdsong death i...

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REQUIEM

You may want to be a rose,

You are beautiful enough,

and your perfume makes me faint

Heady it is  in that one garden,

Where the best woman in the world

Works like a peasant, smiling, striving,

The trimming of the hedges,

If I was a sculptor there would be statues

To remember you as a young woman

But I am a dreamer and I only remember every inch of you

Just as the w...

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space-time horizon

 

Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

I have a dead weight inside me

Which I carry around all day,

It often tries to kill me

And it won’t go away.

I send this freight’s immensity

To the centre of a black hole;

Retracing the wandering journey

Of my wandering soul.

……..

Mine is a grave singularity

That contains a huge mass,

In an infinitely small space:

A d...

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WINTER IS COMING

entry picture

 

 

We wake to the rumbling thunder of blood,
Pumping hearts, twisted hearts, this shadow and I
Squeeze into these thick silences of trees.
Soon the dark lights of Christmastide afflict us
Twilight memories drift, flux and flicker
In this breeze of Time,
Penumbra-beginning hologram-end, my friend,
Such pungent affirmations, slip into the past:
Generations of suffering: eyes lifted to...

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The Unwritten

The times of wonder have gone

We hold on - the wise women drugged

Into submission.

Forensic psychology reveals traces

Of long-forgotten haunted faces

Which, like Munch's lurid, silent scream,

Degenerate into nightmaredream.

Or, so it seems.

Meanwhile, in population centres,

Desire, in all its lurid manifestations,

Falls into disuse,

All is as it was before:

Foot...

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A Sufi Saint contemplates his imminent dissolution

entry picture

 

Goodbye my Sufi friends and lovers

Nothing now exists to connect you to me

Tayyar is honourable and full of good intent

I will rise from the trap of the world

I will ask you to be my servant in paradise

You are my dancer, I am your poet, we can laugh

Together on days when I taste the rain-drift-clouds.

When you sew I can watch you and fall in love

Again I remember our ...

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The pure nectar of this moment

entry picture

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shout it out or whisper it secretly in my ear

Tell me all the things I will never want to hear:

Tell me how Sharia law liberates the maid:

Tell me how nationalism is patriotism writ large;

Tell me how exactly and who it is that Jesus saves.

Now I’ll tell you our lives are way too crammed with things

How we need to let go if we want to hear the s...

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We Sumerians in Mesopotamia

Our time in Erbil was short

We heard that in Mosul

The fascist’s love of power

Was enforced by knife and fist and gun.

Our time in Nineveh had begun,

Long, long beneath the sun.

With Dwekh Nawsha

It was a time for self-sacrifice

A time to break the deadly silence of terror

And now, again,  church bells ring in Nineveh

WE have changed fate.

We the ancient Assyrian p...

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kind of blue

john coltrane in my mind, a war companion in my head

miles davis not far behind, it's the kind of blue that rhymes

a mixing that's complex and true: a rippling of the genes,

a resurrection of memory, a breaking of the heart

a saxophone screeches us apart, a wail, a scream,

blue-lightening flashing, it's more than a blue-tinged dream,

billie holiday, lady day, tears out my soul

...

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Composed in sweat

Compose a verse that is hotter than a boil

Compose a poem that'll flare up in  oils.

Compose a eulogy that outreaches the stars

Compose a symphony as an epiphany of bars

Compose the day as a hotter aspect of night

Compose a moody monochrome in sunlight.

Fit your creativity to working inside an oven 

Freeze out the hotness of a witches' coven

Filter the air with extreme air ...

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Scene of crime incident

 

black rain glistens on the window panes

as she looks out on unfenced existence,

at the the life that never was, outside

her eyes shine like stars beneath the lights

turned on by mom before she went off on one

these men hunched up, collars pulled tight, 

detectives steaming under these high ceiling lights;

 a woman in high heels clutches mummy's bag

unsteadily she shudd...

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The Blossoming of the North

First light: a new beginning,

at the crack of dawn

feel the air against the skin

stop to listen to the dawn chorus.

Thrillingly, it is still summer.

Last year, madness brushed with death.

.Now, I'm thinking:

"The world is full of magic things,

Patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper."

My senses are sharp,

like a razor I cut through the trash

of man's decei...

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No woman is an island

 

 

It is always better to depart

at the end of life

whilst windows are locked

and doors closed

but this is often impossible.

Now, when thousands of lakes have been removed

 wars are fought over water

millions of cups of coffee no longer drunk,

your gaze explodes like petrol thrown on a bonfire.

and this time it really is my fault

some of us are good at dissembl...

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CONSEQUENCES

The words that he said,

in malice and spite,

lit a spark in her heart

flowed in her blood

then entered her brain,

and did her no good,

She was never the same.

As she glowered and festered

she rotted and knew

her cancer diagnosis

was most certainly true.

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Sonnet

Sometimes she speaks through gritted teeth

To herself, admonishingly. She, unforgiven,

Riven by frustration. So hard on herself: 

A mother, a lover, a woman who writes poetry with

Her eyes. Disguises truth with flashes of beauty

Remembers the older the fiddler, the sweeter the tune

Closes her eyes as she suddenly mounts to a crescendo

Of temper, that leaves her sobbing, inhali...

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Wild Butterfly

entry picture

Egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, butterfly

This natural magic of transformation

Can happen to you too. Time makes you

More beautiful. Human metamorphosis

Liberates souls. Such a rare achievement

Requires an emptying of the mind

A deep (and often painful) compassion.

Defeat your expectations;

Free yourself from what is expected and you will see

The passing beauty of a butterf...

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Messing about in boats

Ah, the tip of the straw still gripped by your teeth

I move you gently. You are asleep.

Not jealous or envious or proud.

You have a little money but enormous dignity.

You live in a caravan and still poach

For the pot. You are remarkably silent about the past.

I think it is wise to let sleeping dogs lie.

You would have taken another birth into more fortunate circumstances

Bu...

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Forget-me-not

When you came to me, through an open window

All the cracked envelopes of me came into your hands,

There was nothing in them - just love that you could throw away - 

If you chose, you threw it straight back to me, I caught it, we were away.

You gave me a lot of praise with your eyes

 For being alive

I thought you are desiring reciprocation, but you weren't

You were just a girl,...

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Meanderings

Find a way to tell the truth then realise

The truth  will DEFINITELY pull out your eyes

Once upon an old time  days were put away,

Saved up for days by the sea.

Now, extremity of mood is  the mother of invention

Some say this, some say that, some just cough for attention

Play Solitaire whilst sitting on a stair

Staring into thin air

John O'China sailed outer Liverpool

Ga...

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No country for young men

Upon hearing that another young man

A friend of the family, under thirty,

Has taken his own life, by his own hand,

I stop to think. I have no other way. To cope.

Maybe, this whole insincere malarky of 'modern life'

Drove him to the rope, to the sharpened knife.

.....

She is born who is going to decorate my death,

But I am old and certain things are fixed, but, dear God,

...

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A small truth

entry picture

 

 

 

 

 

 

Faith is the bird that feels the light when the dawn is still dark.

Rabindranath Tagore

 

In the auction-room, toy trains wait like ribs

to be eaten, they smell like wet sacks

full of delicious smoke, darned with swollen 

fingers in the cold of a Kashmiri morning.

 

I smile as the pigeons hum into life

so sweet and forgetful was my pain;

...

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The solitary rose of your breath

Angel light, a slight, feathery goodnight kiss,

behind her eyes a guardian angel sighs.

The whisperer behind the song,

A misfortune in thought is exorcised:

close harmonies, fugues when

nothing's wrong. 

A song in a minor key, a longing to be whole and free

Roll away the stone:

On this seafront there is a stone,

where, in the creamy moonlight of an old raggedy romance,

...

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OCCULT RAT-FISH

 

 

Occult fish-rats were in short supply

In that cottage by the Lake-shore where

Jenny, a Californian girl with toothache,

In 1969, give-or-take, was advised to drink

Fortified wine. Fortified by C16H16N2O2

This Lysergic acid had been manufactured

In Palo Alto and brought over to England,

People did those sort of things then inspired

By Timothy Leary and the whol...

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A vague trembling of stars

“I am the immense shadow of my tears” 
― Federico Garcia Lorca

 

I knew from the very beginning

The day would come

When the sun of the mountain

Would cast aside as a sacrifice,

The shadow on your bedroom wall

When you were a girl

......

I knew from the very beginning

That, in my heart there is no balm.

To fool me into complacency

This open-wound:

Weeps, stre...

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Skipping wheels of rhyme

There are no fences facing 

These skipping wheels of rhyme

So play a tune that's tracing

These slippery eels of time.

 

Now the fleeting senseless shipwreck,

Of all of life's esteems,

Flashes quick before your eyes:

With the true-falsity of dreams.

 

Cling you to the wreckage,

Or let it sink and go,

The starlight shines

Above us:

And the north winds blow

...

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Genocide in the Christian East

Blessed are the icons of the Christian East

Fallen into the hands of Whabbi murderers

These who deny the sanctity and purity

Of those who resisted Muslim suzerainty despite

The heavy penalties: their children stolen,

Priests executed, discrimination, terror, fear

But they're still here

These Orthodox Christians who stuck to their religion

Through thick and thin and never ga...

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A dark star

 

What is the curve of time?

Which degree of differentiation

Is required to establish a rate of exchange

With respect to time?

There are a number of ways

To fix this derivative:

They all amount to the same

Number

In the end.

 

In the fourth dimension

The gradient of the curve of time

Is flat, time is still,

Unlike the curvature of spacetime

In our dimen...

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The roses of Al-Andalus

“Commune with your own heart on your bed and be still.” 
― Maimonides Moses 1135-1204

 

The splashes of red, the heady bloom,

The opulent smell, patchouli oil, lingering.

In a marbled room: a certain slant of light,

Reveals these Andalusian roses creeping

Along the fence between Mudejar and Christian.

Between Morisco and Jew,

Between my lover and I,

Between me and you.

...

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Subliminal

To weave the blessed singularities of a woman.

Read the book of shadows,

when sadnesses besiege you,

make art from the dying of the light,

when you are terrified, late, late at night.

Look so-deep into the blackness,

at the heart of second sight,

see yourself mirrored

in the declining light 

of your sleeping child's eyes.

When you enter here:

Abandon all disguise.

...

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Mater mea

Fortitudo mea est amor a matre mihi datus,

 

Coming downstairs slow and steady

Crinkled and wrinked with ruffled hair

I hold her dreams close to me -

Pausing at the turning of eternity -

Until I have drunk two strong coffees,

Smoked an imaginary cigarette,

Said good morning to those I love,

Who are now amongst the dead;

Recite a quiet antiphon in my muddled head.

L...

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BLANK SLATE

It'll take the breath clean out of you

When you think the implications through

Tabula Rasa: blank slate

No memory, no desire,

Nothing to bend you in any direction,

Nothing to send you lower or higher

No future envisaged

No presience required

No past to regret

Nothing for sale and nothing to let

No genetic predisposition

No-one to speak and no-one to listen

A new...

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The Shoah of us all

Concrete walls

Chucked up quick, cheap

My first home

.......

My dad he’d shipped West  Africans

From the Gold Coast to Burma to fight

The Japs. Sunk, he was, three times, 

No one thought to teach him to swim.

Dispensible he was, like all the other working class lads

Determined to do their bit 

No bugger taught them anyfuckingthing.

.........

We played all around...

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Brother

 

Two days before he died

In Manchester, at night, in the rain

I shared a cigarette with my brother Pete,

We talked of nothing much,

I knew I loved him, 

But not so much.

 

Death, he said to me, isn't anything,.

Nothing more than

A bird-song when you listen

Real close

Falls silent.

Or a sunset in the sky

fading to blue,

Or when you see.

anything that...

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The voice of death, the voice of love and the voice of art.

A whole life spent out of kilter

Every day out of whack

So when the storm hit

And everything went kerflooey

I was ill-prepared.

No going back.

....

Now, if a little dreaming is dangerous

Is the cure to dream more?

.........

I wish you were here: 

On this sad, autumn day

When all the words that ever were

Just drained away

Leaving me aghast.

With nothing ...

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Destiny

 

Every day regardless of the goodness or evil lurking in my soul

I see these kipper skies, placid blue occasionally, but much more

Like the swirling skies of Turner and how the skies of the young Mozart

(And he is forever-young) might have seemed when he was adding

Note to bloody note to produce the magnificence of the Requiem or the Magic

Of the Flute. This existence is a privi...

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Die Zauberflote

Zoroaster whispered in my inner-ear:

Look! Listen! Synaesthesia is here:

Fill your eyes with music

Fill your mind with taste

Judge from the plunging depths

To the necklines of lace.

Feel this rise to the screaming heights,

Smell out these plangent affirmations.

Silence from the Queen of Night

Or a cacophony of exclamations?

He's soaring, always soaring, he's winging o...

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